British PM says argument not won on Libya no-fly zone

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Prime Minister David Cameron admitted Monday that Britain has yet to "win the argument" for a no-fly zone over Libya but said support from the region this weekend was "very encouraging".

Cameron stressed that "time is of the essence" and vowed to keep up pressure on Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, adding that Britain had frozen another £10 billion ($16 billion, 11.5 billion euros) of Libyan assets.

European Union leaders agreed Friday to talk to rebels fighting Kadhafi's regime and protect Libyan civilians "by all necessary means", but they did not mention a no-fly zone, as proposed by Britain and France.

London and Paris are drawing up a UN Security Council resolution on Libya that includes a no-fly zone, and won support Saturday from the Arab League.

"We need to continue to win the argument for a strong response from the international community, Europe included," Cameron told parliament Monday.

He said the timing of the UN resolution "will depend on the support that can be guaranteed for such a resolution in the UN".

"But I think what's happened with the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council is very encouraging," he told lawmakers.

As well as the no-fly zone, Cameron said the resolution should include "much tougher measures against mercenaries and the states from which they come as well as others who are attempting to breach the sanctions and assist Kadhafi".

He said: "Every day Kadhafi is brutalising his own people. Time is of the essence, there should be no let-up in the pressure we put on this regime."

In line with tougher measures agreed by the EU last week, Cameron said: "The UK has increased the total of frozen Libyan assets in this country from £2 billion to £12 billion."

© 2011 AFP

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